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Headsup: Espionage, Intrigue and Talking Mischievous Motorcycles

There’s a lot of stuff that comes out all the time, with the companies lobbying to snag your coin. Take this as your quick reference guide that will help you with answering the all important question: Should I throw money at it or save my coin? If you find the info here to be of use, do us a favor and purchase stuff from Amazon through us. Especially if you were going to buy the stuff anyway. That gives us kickbacks, which help pay for things. Like the server. And coffee. And therapy. Thanks.

Agatha Christie Hour Set 2 DVD
Man in a Suitcase Set 1 DVD
Wish Me Luck Series 2 DVD

[ad#longpost]Three new entries from Acorn Media, bringing British television to DVD, kick us off. This second set of 1982’s The Agatha Christie Hour completes that series hitting home video with five additional episodes across two discs. The premise here is simple: Christie did a lot of Poirot and a lot of Marple and whatnot, but that’s not all she did. You know, I mean besides the disappearing act. Here we have some of her other short stories adapted to television. While there’s less mystery going on than Christie fans might be used to, you will find some familiar faces, like Rupert Everett and Nicholas Farrell (Midwinter’s Tale). The quality of audio and video isn’t great because of the age of the footage, but it’s good to have for posterity. Christie fans will want to rent to sample these–to see if they want to purchase–and the Christie completist will want to plonk down the coin, naturally. But at $6 an episode, it’s steep for anybody but the die hards. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Man in a Suitcase is a series I was not previously familiar with. And indeed, it sounds like some kind of reverse-gender version of Boxing Helena. But it’s not. Instead it’s taking a page from Danger Man and depicting a former intelligence agent who, having been drummed out of his own service in disgrace, becomes an agent for hire. Now that I’ve been exposed to it, I’m sort of amazed this hasn’t been remade yet, to be honest. Guest stars you’ll catch in this four disc, fifteen episode set (half of the complete series) include Donald Sutherland and Peter Vaughan (Mr. Helpmann in Brazil). While it’s also unrestored, it should be sought out for at least a rental by spy enthusiasts who have seen everything else and want to go back to some good old fashioned retro intrigue. Its price point is a respectable $3.50 or so an episode as I type this, but sample it first and ensure it’s something you want on the shelf. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Wish Me Luck is yet another espionage series, this time set in World War II and concerning British female secret agents. This second series (of three) picks up with one seasoned team member bringing in two new recruits and goes from there over the course of seven episodes (all seven are here across two discs). Among the familiar faces you’ll see in this show is Jeremy Northam (Gosford Park). Anyone who enjoys WWII-based drama should check this out. Its unrestored nature and its higher price point (close to $4.50 an episode) make it something that should be sampled before purchasing. However, this, like the other Acorn releases we just talked about, is the only way to catch these at present. I was unable to find them airing anywhere. So just bear that in mind. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Glee Season 2, Vol. 1 DVD
Bill Withers: Still Bill DVD
Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll DVD

The one thing I can say about Glee is that it certainly draws guest stars and attention. This set alone you’ve got Britney Spears, Barry Bostwick and Meat Loaf (for the Rocky Horror episode), Gwyneth Paltrow (butchering Cee-Lo) and Carol Burnett. The other thing I can say about the show is my previously stated theory: it’s High School Musical for grownups. And I have no beef with that, really. If it takes a show like this to turn people on to musical theater, then so be it. Bonus bits include a jukebox that lets you have a mix of songs from the episodes, a bonus Rocky Horror song, Comic-Con Q&A, a making-of featurette for the Rocky episode and a brief bit about Jane Lynch winding up in Madame Tussaud’s. While I can understand appreciating the show, I can’t understand buying this now. It’s a half season here while the full season boxed set is coming as well as on Blu-Ray. If you absolutely must get your fix, rent it or Netflix it but hold off if at all possible. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Bill Withers is one of those signers that even if you don’t know him…you know him. If you don’t know “Ain’t No Sunshine,” “Use Me,” “Just the Two of Us” or “Grandma’s Hands” you sure as hell know “Lean on Me.” Yes, that was him. And I’m ashamed to say I had assumed Withers had passed away at some point–but no, he’s hale and hearty and happy. He dropped out of the music business in 1985 and stayed out and doesn’t seem to have regretted it one bit. This docu takes you through his life and lets him define his own legacy. It’s a nice change of pace to see a musician in his twilight years at ease with himself. Bonus bits on this Docurama release include extra interviews and extra performances (including one by Corey Glover). Worth renting if you want to get some of the story behind the music. (Click here to buy the DVD from Amazon.)

Andy Serkis is a fascinating actor. Yes, he’s best known for Gollum but if you want to see him blistering the screen, just check him out playing Van Gogh in that episode from Simon Schama’s series, Power of Art. Just heartbreaking on a different level as the Tony Curran version from the recent Doctor Who episode (Serkis lets his crazy hang out, so to speak). Here he stars with Naomie Harris (28 Days Later), Ray Winstone, Olivia Williams (Rushmore) and Toby Jones (the “Dream Lord” from Doctor Who), playing the part of punk musician Ian Dury from Ian Dury and the Blockheads. The disc from Tribeca comes with a commentary from the director, the writer and Serkis, some promotional featurettes, and deleted scenes. Fans of punk music who wish to know more about Dury will want to check this out–and Serkis is always worth checking out as well–but this is probably good enough to catch as a rental. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Brave New Worlds
Dead Space: Aftermath Blu-Ray
Matlock: The Sixth Season DVD

Brave New Worlds is the latest anthology out of Night Shade Books, edited by John Joseph Adams. This time, if the cover art (or title, for that matter) didn’t clue you in, it’s dystopia. And here’s what you really need to know about this book: the opening story is Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery.” Now if that isn’t the act of an editor who knows his dystopia, then I don’t know what is. Dammit, that’s a fine story. But it doesn’t stop there: other high points of the sub-genre (although is dystopian fiction really cohesive enough to have a sub-genre–no idea) are Bradbury‘s “The Pedestrian,” Ellison’s “‘Repent Harlequin!’ Said the Ticktockman,” Philip K. Dick’s “The Minority Report,” and Vonnegut’s “Harrison Bergeron.” Also in attendance are Orson Scott Card, Caitlin R. Kiernan and The Neil. It’s currently less than $10 on Amazon as I write this, and it’s a stack of good fiction for a cheap price. About 470 pages worth of stuff. Can’t beat that, seriously. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Dead Space: Aftermath is a film that takes place between the first Dead Space game and the second, obviously after the first Dead Space film, which took place before the first game. It’s hard to keep it straight, I know. Anyway, even though I eschew video gaming because of the addictive nature of my personality, I have heard from multiple sources that the first game was pretty happening. However, the tale told here of the four survivors of the Big Event (my terminology, because I like inventing proper nouns) is told by each in turn from their own perspective, then bringing a lead-in for the second game. There are no bonus features on either the Blu-Ray or DVD release beyond trailers. I suppose if you are keen on animated sci-fi horror, this might be worth checking out–but considering the lack of features I wonder at its replay factor. Worth Netflixing if you are a completist in the genre and go further from there if you simply can’t help yourself. (Click here to buy the Blu-Ray from Amazon; here for the DVD.)

The sixth season of Matlock hits from Paramount with all eighteen episodes across six discs with two of the episodes clocking in at two hours each. As with most of these Paramount sets, there are no bonus features. Episodes from the series are being shown on WGN (or one of the WGNs…networks have so many versions of themselves these days it’s hard to keep track), so you do have access to them beyond just the DVD. However, there are numerous people who are fans of the show and can sit down and watch it at any time. It’s for these people that the set is justified for, and the good news is that at around $2 an episode, the price point is not outlandish. If you need a refresher, a Netflix of the set would be fine, but if you want to own it, this is probably fine to purchase. Doubtful that a much better set will come along anytime soon to make you regret it. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

My Last Five Girlfriends DVD
Pie in the Sky Series 4 DVD
Wheelie and the Chopper Bunch: Complete Series DVD

My Last Five Girlfriends is about a guy who decides take stock of his previous relationships and try to figure out what exactly caused them to all fail. This sounds like High Fidelity, yeah, I know. The man in question is played by Brendan Patricks with Naomie Harris and Jane March among his exes. This New Video release isn’t bare bones, which is good: there are interviews, a director’s commentary, behind the scenes stuff, an FX compilation, deleted scenes and more. If Fidelity with less music sounds like a winner, then you might Netflix or rent this, but even with the bonus stuff, I doubt its replay factor. And at over $22 as I type this, that’s pricey if you don’t absolutely love it. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Pie in the Sky, starring Richard Griffiths (Uncle Dursley in the Harry Potter films), has a schtick that surely has been used before–but I can’t think of where. Griffiths plays a really good detective who wanted to just retire and start his own restaurant, but like Al Pacino in that third Godfather film that didn’t happen in my reality, just when he thinks he’s out, he gets pulled back in. So forward, the foodie detective. This hits from Acorn Media with all six episodes (the first two are a two-parter) across two discs. The episodes are over $4.50 each on this set–and considering it’s available via Netflix, I would say sample it first before taking the plunge. If you simply eat up light crime dramas (no pun intended, honestly) then this would be worth checking out. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

I’ve mentioned before just how deep the Hanna-Barbera collection goes. I mean, seriously: not only are there shows you’ve never even heard of in there, but you also get ones that you remember, they’ve just slipped out of your mind. That’s the case with me and Wheelie and the Chopper Bunch. The premise is Wheelie, a stunt car, who has a girlfriend Rota Ree and a gang of miscreant-nemeses, the aforementioned Chopper Bunch. Hijinks ensued, with Frank Welker providing the voices for both Wheelie and head baddie Chopper, and Don Messick handling two of the other Bunch members. The Warner Archive has all thirteen episodes here across three discs. The episodes (which had three stories each) come to about $2 each with this set’s price point. That’s not bad, actually. And considering this is the only place I know of to legitimately own a copy, then this is a no-brainer to a fan of the show or of Hanna-Barbera in general. (Click here to buy it from the Warner Archive.)

1 comment

  • I am buying the crap out of Brave New Worlds as we speak, and I didn’t realize Living Dead 2 was out–joy!